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Don't Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  574 ratings  ·  109 reviews

Gang- and drug-related inner-city violence, with its attendant epidemic of incarceration, is the defining crime problem in our country. In some neighborhoods in America, one out of every two hundred young black men is shot to death every year, and few initiatives of government and law enforcement have made much difference. But when David Kennedy, a self-taught and then-

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Bloomsbury USA
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Nate Hendrix
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A completely different way to think about crime and punishment. It should be required reading for anyone in law enforcement or anyone else for that matter. No matter what you beleive should be done about the drug gang problem, this book will make you think. It really seems like the main problem is not so much the gangbanger with a gun, but the politicians and bureaucrats that foul thing up. Kennedy has these amazing ideas that have worked in some dangerous cities. The bad guys he knows how to co ...more
The strength of this book is not just in providing a workable fix to the problem of gun violence in drug market areas, but in the way David Kennedy lays out the core beliefs of the police and of the mostly black communities/black lives that are affected by the violence and then tells us how each side's beliefs are right and wrong.

The gist of his idea to stop gun violence this: a lot of people in the community might be involved in drugs, but there's only a handful of shooters. Investigate, figur
Gary Braham
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It's said that once a person has a set opinion on something, they spend about 90% of their intelligence trying to justify their belief, and only about 10% on whether or not they are even correct to begin with. This book is about the 10%, it's a real opinion changer on how we deal with crime, and policing in America. I had recently read "How Brute Force Fails" by Mark Kleinman, which is basically a much less well told version of this book. I had given it a poor review, and a friend of mine recomm ...more
Frank Stein
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
An impressive and thought-provoking cri de coeur about the lamentable state of inner city America, our previous failed attempts to help it, and a new strategy that just might change things.

Kennedy, a self-described "long hair" originally from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard (he is no relation to THAT Kennedy family) and now at NYU, believes he has found a new method that will seriously reduce violence and crime in troubled communities. He thinks that if cops find the most dangerous g
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book rings out.

I live in Oakland, CA, a highly charged city of 440,000 people with no shortage of opinions on what to do about crime. I would argue that the problem of inner city violence is understood by Oakland residents more earnestly than most; what isn't so well understood it seems, are successful approaches taken elsewhere to address the same problems.

When a body drops in Oakland, members of the community demand action -- more jobs for the economically disadvantaged, more cops for the
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was really mind blowing. I had no idea that there was a program like the one the author describes. The fact that there is an effective and simple way to stop violent crime and yet it's not being used everywhere and shouted from the rooftops is shocking! Of course, when you understand the humility required to implement the program it makes a little more sense.

I think this is an excellent book for anyone interested in public safety, inner cities, race relations, and crime. I learned thin
Dec 15, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm about half way through this book, and it's a good read from an information standpoint. However, the author has a very distinct style of writing that you'll either love, or be driven insane by. He will never use one word if he can use 50, often saying with a paragraph what could have been said in a sentence. If you can get past that, it's worth your time. ...more
Is it possible to drastically lower homicide rates in inner-city communities and begin to repair the damage violence has caused? Where many people see a situation that will never change, criminologist David Kennedy shows us that rapid change is possible. He explains a strategy where law enforcement (police officers, probation and parole officers, district attorneys, and federal agents) create partnerships with the community. Working with local researchers, police identify the small number of gro ...more
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Don't Shoot" is a remarkable story of a paradigm shift in dealing with street violence. David Kennedy describes how he and his colleagues collaborated to develop a particular intervention strategy to reduce crime in poor neighborhoods. His team found that with careful research, they could determine that most of the murders in a given neighborhood were done by a relatively small group, generally gang members. Kennedy also describes the unique narratives held by distinct communities in these neig ...more
Oct 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Decided to attend the new book reading at Greenlight on a whim. David Kennedy was incredibly engaging. What he had to say was most exciting: it is possible to end street violence that is killing so many young black men; we know how to do it. The book is the antithesis of a dry academic tome. I'm only on the third chapter, but it is compelling reading. One caveat: perhaps a little too compelling. Kennedy writes as he talks, in a punchy polemical style. But what he has to say is so important, it s ...more
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
one of the best, most hopeful books i've read ever. PLEASE COME TO DETROIT. this guy and his coworkers have figured out how to reduce gun violence in inner cities and have proven that it works. in boston, CA, down south, in Minn. over and over again they get gangs to renounce violence. PLEASE COME TO DETROIT. they do it by getting everyone to buy in to the solution: politicians, cops, social workers, employers, families, educators. everyone becomes part of the solution. this is so common sense i ...more
Paul Elliott
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Kennedy serves as a helpful guide in understanding violence/law enforcement/gangs/racism in some of America’s most violent cities. I was struck by the importance of communication and empathy in addition to actual policy changes.
Paul Goble
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: community and law enforcement leaders
If your community depends on you to reduce violence and serious crime, this book is essential reading. If you wonder what your community could be doing differently to reduce violence and serious crime, this book will open your eyes.

Before proceeding, I'd like to offer my perspective on Kennedy's informal, conversational writing style. Some readers find it a significant distraction. I found it brilliant. The style allows the author to highlight his personal perspective on a policing strategy whic
definitely worth it. on the down side, the guy's a little histrionic, loves cops/bill bratton a bit too unreservedly, and got too far along in the text dismissing minorities' belief that drug policy/policing/sentencing as an economic conspiracy to reinstate slavery, before admitting that is actually justified in part (though i still don't think he had time, or maybe inclination, to really process the work that michelle alexander and others have been doing, or the increasingly documented revelati ...more
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
David Kennedy argues that urban communities with high crime have a breakdown between three different parts of the community. Kennedy believes that the police, those participating in illegal activity, and those living in the community all have false perceptions about each other that keep each other from working together to deal with crime in a healthy way. Ironically these perceptions cause each group to act in a certain way that only reinforce those perceptions in the other groups. Thereby it cr ...more
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's something slightly strange about enjoying reading a book concerned with serious issues like inner city violence, gang killings and drug markets. There's something even more strange when you come to see that what is ultimately a very simple strategy can have such a dramatic impact on these types of crime.

It's amazing to hear stories of cynical police departments, DA offices, community activists who have to re-evaluate the way they work when their eyes are opened to how successul Kennedy'
John Pappas
Nov 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Passionate and polemical, Kennedy challenges basic assumptions about the role of police in taking back communities ravaged by violence. Here is the script for Operation Ceasefire, a multi-agency effort (but one spearheaded by Kennedy's team and governed by his research) begun in Boston to reduce the level of violence in Boston's most dangerous communities. Kennedy's tone is straight-forward and down-to-earth: It doesn't take a genius to engineer some fantastical weapon to shift the political and ...more
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: year-of-books
"It's a logic that says, someone can be doing terrible things and still be a victim; someone can have done wrong and still deserve help; someone can have been the victim of history and neglect and it's still right to demand that they stop..."

I have to give this book all the stars I can, because I am convinced of what Kennedy is convinced of: this stuff works. It just does. I am reminded of all the blocks people have thrown up in the face of change -- let's get real, the blocks I throw up for mys
Jeff Golick
Oct 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
A powerful & passionate plea from an academic who has taken his study of crime from the academy to the streets. Kennedy writes like a man possessed -- which he is. He is possessed with an idea of how to effectively eliminate gun violence in the most troubled neighborhoods in US cities. Working across many groups with a variety of goals -- sometimes conflicting, sometimes complementary -- Kennedy persuades DAs, cops, social service workers, probation officers, and gang members alike to come toget ...more
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the most hopeful and solution-oriented books I've ever read about ending inner city violence and drug dealing. Having read this, I don't understand why this program isn't being funded and replicated at a more rapid pace, but as the author points out, old ideas about the causes of crime and its prevention die hard.

The chapters entitled 'Across the Race Divide' and 'High Point: Truth Telling and Reconciliation' are insightful and brilliant. Kennedy clearly grasps the role that racial inequ
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In a personal, passionate voice, the author lays out practical and innovative step-by-step instructions for reducing gun violence in the most dangerous neighborhoods. The book chronicles years of intense fieldwork and iterations on these new policing techniques. Kudos to Kennedy for giving so much of his life to this important cause - makes me want to send a copy of this to the Philadelphia District Attorney and drop everything to start working on this.

[The dramatic style is annoying at times bu
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
While the writing is not the best and the pace drags in spots, I still HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone in America. It totally changed my perspective on the perpetual gang violence that seems to plague our urban environments. This books lifts us out of a good guys vs. bad guys mentality and shows instead how the standard law enforcement tactics and lack of community response serves to perpetuate this unfortunate violence. Best of all Kennedy offers plenty of example of cities that have turne ...more
Christopher Obie
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For anyone serious about tackling the violence in the Black community, this book might just be the most important and eye-opening book you can read! Not that you're going to agree with everything that's written, but you will definitely not be able to look at drug or gang-fostered violence the same way again. Mr. Kennedy does not seem to care about who agrees or disagrees with his conclusions, he tells it straight as he sees it, but more importantly, he offers a real and proven solution. It's his ...more
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
The author is trying too hard to write. What is an interesting and perhaps vital message about strategies to reduce urban gun violence gets completely lost due to the author's interest in spinning a story of the metamorpheses of his own thinking on the subject. I suspect I am not the only reader who comes to this subject with a lot more interest in Kennedy's ideas and less interest in his attempts to bring drama to think-tank meetings and police superintendent offices. ...more
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it
This book is pretty interesting, although it could probably have been a long magazine article instead of a whole book. Kennedy really lays it on thick with the rhetorical devices, trying to lead you in one direction so he can SHOCK you with his counterintuitive insight that's not actually that counterintuitive at all. ...more
Kate Merriman
Oct 05, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: community, purchased
Oh KQED and Michael Krasny, you're always tempting me into buying new books! But I rarely regret it. Heard a great interview with the author this morning on my commute to work and can't wait to read this. ...more
Mar 31, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book had a lot of interesting ideas and for that I'd give it 5 stars. The ideas are repeated often and probably could have been summarised with half the examples it provides, because of that, I'd give it 2 stars. If you have the time to spend reading example after example than go for it. ...more
Adam O'donnell
Nov 29, 2012 rated it liked it
The book had great ideas but I found the writing style to be grating at times.
Marc Joanisse
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book about the sociology of crime and law enforcement. You should just read it, and marvel at how interesting and compelling this guy's story is. ...more
Lynn Schlatter
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"We'll help you if you let us. We'll stop you if you make us." It's hard to understand why every city in the country hasn't implemented David Kennedy's research-based, systematic, no-nonsense approach to reducing inner-city crime, until you realize that there are two pervasive forms of nonsense people have engaged in when trying to solve this problem:

1. They think too small. They fail to understand that the kind of crime that destroys a community (Kennedy focuses on gang warfare and open air dru
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